It starts in the dead of night, not a soul around, and not even my family knows where I am as I slip out the door with a puppy dog and an old pair of shoes, and I know nothing of stretching, nothing of muscles, nothing of form.
One foot in front of the other, a leash in one hand, my footsteps echo across familiar terrain – Big Shawn and the giant rock, childraising and all that I’ve learned from it, wacky college days and surprise boxes of chickens.
I don’t keep my knees up, I merely lean forward, let my body weight fall in front of me, lurching along to catch myself while my lungs start bitching right off the bat.
Because I’m soft and coddled. Because I seldom make myself do the hard stuff? Or because I do a lot that’s difficult already, and then give myself a break on what’s extraneous, and that’s what it’s always been to me, isn’t it? A part of me that I can’t remove, yet I think of it as extra, as something that doesn’t need fed.
Because of the Curse. Because of excuses. Because of a dark and cluttered past trailing behind me like cinderblocks on chains scratching white chalk marks on the sidewalk, and no, it isn’t pretty, this swarm of living whispers. It isn’t pretty and neither am I.
So I run alone in the dark, the way I always have, just me and my past and my ugliness and my delirious, demon-haunted dreams.
Every day. Run through the silence and let the muscles itch as they rebuild themselves around the effort. Feel the lungs as they eat the air, and they’re getting an appetite, aren’t they? Chomp, chomp, chomp – I think they like it, Tommy C.
A few people start to agree – they wave from their porches and put up litte signs, and when they see me elsewhere in normal life, they tell me Heyyyyyy – I saw you. I SAW you!
I point at them and click my tounge, while others pretend they don’t notice, but I see them, all right. I see them, too Go ahead and look away, because that’s not what I’m going to do – look at me or don’t.
Screw it. Change up the route and run through the darkest places I know, where dead boys leer from the shadows and fear is a vapor that closes my throat, and now they begin to follow me, intrigued, while my feet grow bloody from the cracked obsidian path.
Laugh at it. Laugh at the blood and the pain and the things that used to scare me. Start zigzagging around, slice my feet to ribbons – they’ll heal like everything else heals, stronger. Like I need them to be, these things I walk the Earth upon – not much good to me if they can’t stand to bleed.
Ha! The cinderblocks I drag around can’t heal so well. I giggle as the hungry path devours them, grinds them to powder until it’s only chains back there, tinkling against the stones, a weight lifted, the vapor clears. The little crowd gasps and it drowns out the silence and the sneers.
And my knees are up now – ah, so this is what Form is.
Every day, get up and move; it’s no longer a secret. I run into the mainstream, and shake my fists at pop culture, flickering like lightning against the rumbling purple sky. People I don’t know yell “Yo, Tommy C!”
And I feel like Rocky. Yes – exactly like Rocky, because they throw garbage now, too – “Stay outta my yard, ya bum!”
Take a beating, leave a beating, like pennies at the carryout, and feel worn out but I can’t stop. I don’t want it back, my silence, my burdens, my fears, my lonely, desperate stagnation – they would return anytime I asked. Any time I stop. Anytime I want them, and I don’t.
Run. Every day, seeking the places I’m afraid to go, and then barreling there, pell mell, tumble bumble. Seek out the Stupid and shine a light upon it, sing it a song. Ride the absurd like a cartoon ostrich and flip off the cops as they pull alongside – you try to stop me, motherfuckers. I’ll bet you can’t.
Who am I? Who cares. I run to the tops of buildings and laugh across the rooftops, and then leap into space, because I’m Batman now, if that’s who I want to be.
Yes, and I can hear the eyeballs rolling – I sure can. Like restless bowling balls in an old, creaky attic, they never roll quietly, and I can see their owners as I pass, sitting on their asses doing absolutely nothing, but oh, yeah – they know how to judge.
I cropdust them old school – an old-fashioned fart cloud – and think, Sit there and judge, old friend, and notice which one of us is blasting past the other one now, and which one of us can’t smell the other one’s ass. Notice who stagnates, and who drives his own change. And laugh, sure, why not? Roll your eyes and sneer from your bar stool and laugh, because you can bet your ass I’m laughing at you.
Run. Right into the blogosphere, like a sunny park in May – they’re everywhere here, running and skipping and flying kites. Welcome, they tell me. Come and join us, we’re all sitting over here, spreading our toes in the Earth, and it feels nice. You’re at home here and you belong, so have a seat and join us.
Bah, like Conan says – time enough for the Earth in the grave, and I didn’t come here to sit back down, I came here because I had to, restless from a life haunted by phantoms and lost chances and dead dogs I could have saved. You sit here all you want, but I have to run, and that’s what I do, eating the wind and spitting out bugs and cackling like a mad man who just broke loose, and that’s what I am.
Now it’s broad daylight, my shoes soaked and scarlet, my bloody footprints steaming behind me like volcanos for smurfs, and the looks I get are all over the map. Joy and indifference, admiration and irritation, respect and contempt, weariness and sudden, wide-eyed interest.
Who the hell is that guy?
I’m Future Tom I tell them, grinning big, and then I’m gone.